Due to consumer demand and society’s health consciousness, restaurants are feeling pressure to offer healthier food alternatives, such as more flavorful salads, low-carbohydrate meals, and low-fat dishes. Some restaurants are even going as far as providing the calories and fat grams of their menu items for their customers. The alternative meal options and nutrient data are always helpful and should be utilized when trying to follow a healthy lifestyle.
Some restaurants are still not providing healthy food options despite the demand. It is even more challenging when traveling to maintain health conscious diet. So, you the consumer must try to find menu items to fit your healthy lifestyle. Here are several suggestions for eating on-the-go:
- Select foods that are steamed, garden fresh, broiled, boiled, baked, roasted, poached or lightly sautéed or stir-fried.
- Avoid fried foods (so, no fried chicken, tortillas, French fries, onion rings, hamburgers, etc.). Although these items are very appetizing, they are also very calorie dense, high in fat and low in nutrients since the frying process destroys whatever was once beneficial in the food.
- Grilled fish is always better than grilled chicken, and both are always better than grilled beef. But, be careful of dishes smothered with a sauce, based with butter or cream. Ask for either no sauce or have it on the side.
- Take the skin off of the chicken, turkey or duck before eating it.
- Substitute fried side-orders (i.e. French fries or potato chips) and mashed potatoes, which are usually made with cream or butter, for mixed veggies, broccoli, or green beans. If the meal already comes with vegetables, then order extra.
- Ask the server if a restaurant’s veggies are steamed, baked and/or layered in butter and oil. Request no butter or oil be used by the chef.
- If you find that you do not know the number of calories in a meal, then ask your server for a To-Go box or Doggy-bag. When the meal is delivered to your table, take half and save it for later. Close the container and get it out of sight. You will be much less likely to overeat if it is not in front of you.
- Always order a salad with the dressing on the side. You will save yourself hundreds of calories if you delicately dip your fork into the dressing. Or, better yet, do not use any dressing at all. However, if you must add a little extra flavor to your salad ask for balsamic vinegar or a lemon wedge to squeeze over your salad.
- If a dish shows up with butter, gravy, mayo or a “mayo-like” dressing on it, scrape it off.
- For a beverage, drink water (add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime for favor), diet soda, or even 6 oz of dry white wine with seltzer (50 calories).
- For dessert (if you must) try to avoid getting a whole dessert for yourself. Most desserts are prepared for more than one person. Share with somebody, and do not feel you need to finish it. Remember, the restaurant is not interested in your physique or your health, but rather your money. Which is more important to you?
- Plain sherbet or gelato are much lower in calories (no sauce or fruit syrups added).
- Instead dessert, try a latte, coffee or tea (no added sugar).
Trying to satisfy the kids appetites and maintain a healthy lifestyle can certainly be a challenge. However, flavorful, healthy options are available when you look for them. Plan your meals according to where you might be traveling, and remember when you say no to a particular food, you say yes to yourself.